“There are Pretenders among us…”
Originally airing on NBC from 1996 – 2000 and followed up by two made for TV movies, The Pretender follows the life of Jarod, played by Michael T. Weiss, a genius who was kidnapped as a child by an international “think tank” organization known as the Centre. After spending years having his work exploited and never knowing who he really is, where he comes from, or who his family is, their Pretender ran away. The Centre however, isn’t going to just let him go as they send a team consisting of Jarod’s former handler/father figure Sydney (Patrick Bauchau), childhood “friend” and daughter of the boss Ms. Parker (Andrea Parker), and no you never get her first name, and the Centre’s resident tech geek Broots (Jon Gries). Jarod is a Pretender, which in this case, means he’s a genius with the ability to become anyone he wants to be. In every episode as he goes from city to city in search of his family, he takes on a new role and usually helps solve crimes, help families, and make life better for those around him.
One of the great parts about the Pretender was Jarod’s innocence and naivety about everyday things that we take for granted. He’s been shuttered away his entire life and cut off from the world so things we encounter every day are brand new to him. Have you ever seen a picture of yourself as a baby having ice cream or candy for the first time? That’s what Jarod’s every day adult life is like as he discovered things he’s only heard of before. In the Halloween episode, Jarod goes all out from living in a “haunted house”, decorating it, and even going Trick-or-Treating at the end of the episode. Another episode sees Jarod trying to understand how someone can survive a bite from a radioactive spider, let alone become a super hero from it. Each episode usually has a moment like this which was one of the true hallmarks of the series. You try explaining Star Wars or the purpose of the Three Stooges to a grown man who’s never watched TV or a movie before.
Aside from the comedy, the show often features a good degree of mystery and action as Jarod has to deal with unsavory characters as well as the Centre. The father/son relationship between Jarod and Sydney is in stark constrast to the fact that Sydney is trying to bring Jarod back to the Centre while Jarod eludes capture. There’s also a small flicker of romance on occasion between Jarod and Ms. Parker as their constant game of cat and mouse goes on showing you how the Centre has twisted the lives of these people into a truly cruel story. The story is similar to a show like LOST in that it contains a lot of backstory that’s revealed over time with a lot of questions that are slowly answered over time. The combination of comedy, drama, action and mystery is something that will bring you back to see more episodes and eventually the movies. The one down side is that the show is incomplete. I wouldn’t suggest something to you without being honest. Even after the two films, many of the questions are left unanswered and despite the work of the show’s creators/producers they have not yet been able to raise the finances to finish the series even though a finale has been written. It’s been several years now since the show ended and the movies are done, but if you do a little searching you’ll see that fans still buzz about the show online and want their finale. So as the creators say, “be patient” and we won’t be disappointed.